A LETTER TO THE EDITOR OF THE NORTH ADAMS TRANSCRIPT - Published November 1, 1995
In the past several weeks, I have been criticized on your editorial page by letter writers who have single me out by name or have grouped me with one or more city councilors who, according to the general tenor of comments, have, by criticizing individuals who have appeared before the City Council, in some way " suppressed democracy" in North Adams. Perhaps I should now respond.
First, a lesson in civics. Democracy, contrary to the notions of Eric Rudd and former Councilor Vincent Melito, is not the right of someone to appear before the City Council., advance some hare-brained scheme and then pout because no one leapt from their chair in a swoon to kiss the speaker's fanny in awe and admiration. Democracy is the result of the democratic process when the eligible electorate have made their selection of the individuals that they want to represent them. As of this writing , Mr,Melito , the North Adams electorate has deliberately, and I might add, intelligently, not elected you to represent them since 1987 - your public profession of "representing" the "people" on various issues, most lately, obituary fees, notwithstanding.
And, Mr. Rudd, who didn't have the guts to run for public office, apparently believes there's nothing wrong with feet of clay as long as he can sculpt something with the clay. Somehow, his dalliance with a run for mayor, has led Mr. Rudd to believe that his ideas and proposals have greater merit than those who are charged with the responsibility of, and , who will be held accountable for, making decisions on behalf of the people who elected them.
I might refresh Mr. Melito's memory about his commitment to "democracy" when as a council president in 1989 he maliciously refused to appoint myself and fellow councilors, AlMarden and Louis Sinclitico, to any council committee or liaison assignments. this action by Mr. Melito in essence denied the people, who had elected the three of us, to effective representation on the council. So much for Mr. Melito's pretense in defending "democracy" and the "people's will."
Gary Hillard, in a recent letter chastised me for "belittling" a candidate (Mr. Melito) for council, "before the election even gets started." Yo! Gary! The election doesn't start until the polls open on Tuesday, Nov. 7. I bet you meant "campaign."Maybe if you spent less time waddling your welfare butt up and down Curran Highway and got a job, you could not only pay taxes like most hard-working folk do but you could also afford to buy a dictionary which might explain the difference between and election and a campaign for election.
In another recent letter, Dr. Peter May defended Mr. Rudd's idea for textured sidewalks in the downtown, and, by doing so, took the council to task for not adhering to Mr. Rudd's suggestions. Dr. May apparently picked a leaf from one of the newly set concrete squares and noticed a fossil-like imprint of the leaf. Dr. May apparently instantly "knew" what Mr. Rudd had meant. The telepathic relationship between Dr. May and Mr. Rudd is mind-boggling. Because Mr. Rudd, never, before the council meeting, at the council meeting, or even after the council meeting in his lengthy whine-litter to The Transcript, publicly let anyone know what he meant by "textured" sidewalk. Dr. May joins the whiners in blasting some councilors (obviously, I was one) for mocking Mr. Rudd. Well, Dr. May, he deserved to be mocked, as did his ideas.
One of my great fears is that the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art will encourage an influx of artistic city types, like Mr. Rudd, who see North Adams as fertile territory to "put one over on the local yokels." Artists have egos even larger than politicians. No one can fully fathom the depths of their creative genius. Or at least so their delusion runs. The mayor and City Council have a responsibility to the taxpayers of North Adams and those others who fund the grants we receive, such as the outside-funded downtown street and sidewalk project. Money for arty-craftsy decoration and embellishments- however creative or aesthetic - were not included.
Consider the man hours, and thus the added expense, if the concept of putting leaf imprints in the concrete had been instituted. Of course, visitors might not see the leaf patterns as aesthetic touches. They might thing the contractor did a lousy job and failed to remove the fallen leaves before the concrete dried. and I can see the some of the guys onPetricca's crew: "Chauncy! Watch it. You've got too many leaves in that quadrant, the symmetrical symbiosis of axilary [sic] aesthetics is inconsistent." " Shut the ---- up, Floyd, or I'll make pattern of your face." Really!
Actually, I'm just surprised that Mr. Rudd or Dr. May didn't carry this hare-brained proposal one step further and suggest, in order to truly integrate the arts and the interests of the downtown merchant, that each merchant "adopt" a section of sidewalk outside their establishment and have imprints of their products put in the concrete. For example, outside the Pizza House we could have imprints of pepperoni and anchovies; theMoulton family could have eyeglass imprints in the sidewalk outside the Spectacle Shoppe. How about paint brushes and sandpaper in front of Aldo's; nickles. dimes and quarters outside North AdamsHoosac Savings and across the street at Bank of Boston. Hell, further down in the sidewalk in front of Brooks Pharmacy you could have aspirin and condom imprints. Wow! Ain't the imagination wonderful?
And speaking of textured sidewalks - actually we already have them. They're called "cracks" and that's what we're trying to fix.
Mr. Rudd is the proto-typical artist/art promoter that we should expect the MASS MoCA. Remember the pile of scrap metal bales and the old car with the attached PVC pipe that Mr. Rudd exhibited outside the Beaver Mill last summer? That is "art?" Mr. Rudd is the type that would put a pile of dog poop on the sidewalk on the corner of Main and Marshall Street - attach a plaque on the wall of the adjacent building which reads "Poodle's Paradise - artist unknown." The scary thing is if you could get car load of New Yorkers to stop at that corner, they would undoubtedly " ooh" and "aah" about the texture, the contours, and the overall affect. Surely, one would say, "What a shame the artist is unknown. I'd really like to commission a similar piece for my coffee table back home."
The colored sidewalk idea of Mr. Rudd is equally ludicrous. Perhaps not in added costs or man hours to do, but in public safety. typically artists put form (aesthetics) before function 9use) and this is a typical case. Colored sidewalk squares are dangerous to anyone with depth perception problems - and, the elderly often fit this category. The shift from one color to another as one walks from one concrete square to another gives the illusion of shadow which in turn implies the presence of varied heights. It would have the effect of camouflaging the real surface. Any World War II vet who crossed the Atlantic or Pacific by ship knows that camouflaging on warships and transports was designed to throw off the accuracy of enemy submarines torpedoes. Different colored sidewalk squares would be pretty, no doubt, but totally unfit - at least for many of our citizens - for use.
Textured sidewalks, by the same token, hold ice and snow longer and often make it more difficult to shovel down to the grade. When it comes to making a choice I will always choose the health and safety of the public over these so-called creative and imaginative ideas that Mr. Rudd has advance and Mr.Melito, Mr. Hillard and Dr. May have gone Ga Ga over.
I have been a veteran of both appointed and elected office, dating back to 1972. I have taught public administration as well as urban policy and planning courses for over 20 years. During that time I have warmly received many new ideas - but they were good ideas, not non- functional ones. Maybe Mr. Rudd should restrict himself to erecting junk piles outside the Beaver Mill; Dr. May should restrict himself to popping spinal chords [sic]; Mr. Hillard should restrict himself to finding a job; and Mr.Melito, well, maybe he should help Mr. Hillard - now there's an imaginative and creative idea.
Clark H. Billings
206 Corinth St.